U.S. giant Intel Corp. has teamed up with KT Corp. to help the South Korean firm set up high-speed mobile Internet services in its home market, which currently boasts the highest broadband penetration rate in the world.
The two companies said on Thursday they had signed an agreement to co-operate on a long-distance wireless broadband technology that Intel, the world’s largest chip maker, is betting will compete with wired access.
Intel has also agreed to provide engineering support to ensure inter-operability between its wireless data technology Mobile WiMAX and WiBro, a similar technology South Korea plans to commercialise early next year.
Intel is pushing WiMAX, which would provide high-speed data over areas as large as a small-sized city, as a way to spread cheap yet ubiquitous wireless broadband access.
The U.S. company is hoping to replicate the success it had in popularising the short-range wireless WiFi standard now popular in airports and coffee shops.
“We are very, very optimistic that WiMAX will provide an alternative broadband channel into the home,” Intel’s chief executive Paul Otellini told a news conference in Seoul.
“With Mobile WiMAX, Koreans can take the broadband Internet access they have enjoyed for years in their home on the road,” Otellini added.
South Korea’s top fixed-line and broadband operator KT and the country’s top mobile carrier SK Telecom Co. plan to offer WiBro service that allows users to maintain a high-speed Internet connection on mobile devices even as they move around.
South Korea has been a pioneer of broadband. Three-quarters of the country’s 48 million people have access to the Internet and some 12 million have high-speed connections.
But South Korean telecoms companies are seeking new growth areas as they struggle with stalled broadband and voice traffic markets.
The Wibro services operate at up to a quarter of the speed of WiFi services provided in public places such as coffee shops, but do not require users to remain in a “hot spot” near a transmitter.
Under the agreement with KT, Intel will provide its extensive broadband wireless expertise, silicon and technical services.
Intel expects the first commercial trials of WiMAX early next year, with different variations of the technology for mobile users available for trials by early 2007.